We all take pride (don’t we?) in how Dr Michael Hart chooses to rank Prophet Muhammad – peace be upon him – as Number One in his book, The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History. Dr Hart starts his book with the following words.
My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world’s most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels.
Of humble origins, Muhammad founded and promulgated one of the world’s great religions, and became an immensely effective political leader. Today, thirteen centuries after his death, his influence is still powerful and pervasive.
I agree. But the question that revolved in my mind when I first read these words some fifteen years ago was,
“If Prophet Muhammad – peace be upon him – was the most influential person in history, then why is there only one Muslim name figuring in the other 99 names?”
(This name being Syedna Umr ibn Khattab – may God be pleased with him - the Second Caliph amongst the Khulafa Rashideen. I will write more about him, insha’Allah, in the future. Strictly speaking, the Prophets Moses and Jesus – alaihum us salam – who are also on the list, were also Muslims, but we are talking here about the Ummah of the Prophet Muhammad – peace be upon him.)
This is a very important and crucial question, since it is very strange that a man – a Prophet – tops a list of influential persons, and none (except one) of the billions of people strongly influenced by him manage to make it to the top hundred. After all, we’ve always been a sizable portion of the World’s population and today we number a quarter-and-a-billion – that’s a quarter of humanity. Of course, we could cry foul and say that Dr Hart has been prejudicial in his assessment, but I don’t think so, since he has been honest enough to place Prophet Muhammad – peace be upon him – at Number One even though he knew it would go against the wishes of some of his readers.
The answer to this question lies in the fact that our long history could be divided into a first millennium of relative success followed by a half-millennium of downfall. For the past 500 years, we have been moving downhill and today we have probably reached the nadir of our 1,500-year career. The first millennium of success brought forth such an overwhelming list of influential names that to name only a few would be to do injustice to the others. I would refer my reader to the website, Muslim Heritage, to learn more about this oft-forgotten period of World History.
But it is our incredible downfall in the past half-millennium that has made us lose the influence that our worthy predecessors had on people. If we have forgotten even the names of our worthy predecessors, then why would Dr Hart care to include them in his list of the most influential persons in history? It is no small matter that Dr Hart says,
Today, thirteen centuries after his death, his influence is still powerful and pervasive.
Notice his use of the word, still. This is a glowing tribute to the Holy Prophet – peace be upon him – since even though many of the people of his Ummah have fallen into moral and intellectual bankruptcy for the past five hundred years, his influence nevertheless is still powerful and pervasive.
I wish there were more of us in that list. Any volunteers?